On Leaving The Catholic Church During Scandal


During times of scandal like what the Church is experiencing now, many are tempted to leave the Church…

Watch Brian Holdsworth’s video commentary on the current unfolding scandals and the threat from some that they are leaving.


I’ve been really wrestling with whether or not I want to do a video about the escalating scandal. When I started doing this it was out of a passion for sharing persuasive arguments for why I think certain things are true. But this has consumed a lot of people’s attention, including my own, so I think it’s worth sharing a bit about where I’m at with it and I specifically want to talk about the desire, among many, to leave the Church over this.

Now if you are someone who was directly affected by this, if you are someone who was hurt by the Church, then I would not presume to tell you how you should react to that. As someone who does not share your experiences, I have no business telling you what you should be thinking or feeling.

I’m angry for you. I’m furious for you. I’m grieved for you. I want what is good for you. I pray for healing and happiness for you. I don’t think there’s anything I can say or do to compensate for what’s happened to you other than to do whatever I can from wherever I am to make sure that it doesn’t happen to anyone else.

And God help you if you are guilty of abusing children. Millstones, ropes, necks, I think you get the picture.

So, the rest of this video is really aimed at everyone else and I want to address it coming from my own perspective as a lay Catholic. As someone who understands the instinct to abandon ship.

I think it would be easy for me to be just succumb to the outrage and to refuse to share in the disgrace of what it means to call myself a Catholic. But I also think some perspective can be helpful. I want to try to share a message of hope through this video, but before I do, I think we need to admit some hard truths.

In the past, my instinct on hearing stuff like this has been the defend the faith narrative. Yes, there are some bad priests and even a bad bishop or two, but the rate of abuse in the Catholic Church isn’t any higher than it is elsewhere… and so on.

I think we need to finally come to terms with this and admit that the Catholic Church, in a unique way, has a problem here. There is widespread moral corruption in the clergy, and if recent allegations are true, it goes all the way to the top.

But here’s the thing. The Church, isn’t the clergy, it isn’t the Pope, and it isn’t the parish or diocesan staff. The Church is the people of God… at least that’s what the catechism says that is as long as the current regime doesn’t try to change it.

You and I are the Church and we have a choice. We can run away from this or we can stand and fight for our Church. We can fight the cancer that has grown inside of it and root it out.

I take this as a test. A test of our reasons to call ourselves Catholic and to participate in the life of the Church. Because if our reasons have been, I like the flattery of being counted among a noble and ancient institution. Then that’s not gonna cut it anymore. I don’t go to Church to feel good about my association as a Catholic or to reinforce ideas about what a good person I am.

I go to receive Jesus. I go because I recognize that I’m in need of his grace and mercy. I go to receive his body, blood, soul, and divinity, in the eucharist. For me to look at an unfolding scandal and say, “That’s it. I’m out and I’m never coming back.” It would be like hearing about widespread corruption in medical establishment and saying, well, I’m never going back to a Hospital again. It would be like hearing about widespread corruption in the law enforcement and the judiciary and using that as a reason to refuse to call the police when someone’s breaking into your house.  

I just don’t think there’s a lot of wisdom in that. If I were to succumb to that desire, I have to admit there’d be an attitude in it that’s saying, “I’m too good for this, so I’m going to withhold my association and my company from it as some kind of consequence for them.

But what that would actually translate into is, “I’m too good for Jesus. I’m too good for the sacraments.” And that’s the most irrational thought a person who identifies as a Christian can have.

And they don’t care. Those who are responsible for this garbage would be perfectly happy if people like me walked away. I’d only be hurting myself and my family by depriving them of sacramental grace.  

I’m hoping and praying that some good comes of these revelations. That we will see some actual, meaningful, reform and it’s going to take the voices of those who are outraged over it to stick around and make that known. Running away won’t change things. It won’t help victims and it won’t prevent future ones. Now is the time to have courage and stand strong.

And lastly, can I just say, I’ve had conversations with people who are actual victims of this stuff and some of them are staying because they believe in Christ and they believe he meant for us to belong to his Church. If they’re staying in spite of what’s happened to them, I think that should sober up the rest of us who think it’s noble to act like victims on their behalf by leaving.

So let’s start rebuilding the Church… and let’s start by ending tolerance for infidelity in our clergy. As soon as our pastors start to break with the consensus of the faith and its teachings, it’s not long before they set themselves up as their own authorities who can do whatever they want… and we’ve been tolerating that for too long. It starts and ends there.

And we cannot ease the pressure for investigations. This needs to be investigated at every level and not internally. Independently. Let’s hope Pennsylvania was just the beginning and God willing, the days of corrupt priests and bishops are numbered.

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  1. Matthew’s Gospel today was the parable of the talents. In line with the talents given in the parable, some of us use our talents as oppressors, as stewards and some as victims. In times of scandals caused by oppressors, we cannot survive as victims. We can only thrive as good stewards. We have to power to expose evil and bring them to light, even condemn provided we do it through mercy and justice. The time to act is now. But no time to run away. That would be playing into the hand of the enemy. We can only make decisions that are better than the enemy’s.

  2. Thanks for a great advice specially the health and judiciary examples. I never thought about it that way and it makes sense. Thanks a lot. God bless you.

  3. Dear Brian,
    Excellent reasonable thoughts! I used your quoting of Pope Benedict at his inauguration in an earlier post in an article I wrote for a newsletter. Keep up the good work, you are accomplishing your mission goals!
    God bless,

  4. Excellent commentary. I felt physically sick when I read the latest allegations coming out, but I will not turn the spiritual murder committed by many of our sheperds as an excuse to commit spiritual suicide. We need to stand fight for our Church, to cleanse and purge it. What is happening now, all the scandals and ugliness coming out, is part of God’s plan to purify the Catholic Church, because He promised us the gates of Hades would never prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).

  5. As a lay person, a Catechist, I am aware that this is The imperfect Church: Christ Beloved Church .
    My only truth : my One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church
    Despite it all this too shall pass. I take courage in the early church and all its scandals. I believe .Peter denied and was given rhe leadership. St. Paul persecuted the church and became a great defender. I will not waiver in my support for the my beloved church. Stand firm my people

  6. I agree with everything that you said. It helps me to be able to respond to people who comment on the abuse scandal and why I kept going to the Catholic Church.

  7. I will never leave the Catholic church as it is Christ the Almighty who I worship and Adore in the Church, and only Him who I consecrate myself to in The Mass !!!

  8. As we all know that our Catholic Church is universal, we are all over the world and we are not perfect.lets pray for the victims of abuse and the abusers for God’s mercy . I believe with the sacrament of forgiveness and reconciliation lets pray for our clergy all the time.

    • A member of my family was abused by the paris priest. Her mother never reported to the Bishop Diose. God knows how many more that he abused during his long term there. It has been over 30 years.
      She said it is between God and him. This is was wrong as this priest had stayed on this parish and he continued to do his church work as it was nothing happened. He must be gone from this world by now.

  9. Thank you Brian for sharing excellent commentary ! Let’s Pray for the victim of abuse and the abusers for God Mercy ! God Bless You Always ! ?❤️


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